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Greatest Individual Playoff Performances in NFL History: 40-21

Posted on January 06, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The Cowboys couldn't catch Wilbert Montgomery as he rushed for 194 yards to lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl.

Last year, I wrote an article detailing the 50 most memorable moments in NFL postseason history.

This year, I have decided to chronicle the 40 Greatest Individual Performances in NFL Playoff History.

This list spans back to the beginning of the Super Bowl era in 1966 and does not feature any performances from the Super Bowl.

So without further adieu, here are the 40 Greatest Individual Performances in NFL Playoff History:

40. (tie)Ty Law-2003 AFC Championship Game, Colts vs. Patriots
Ricky Manning Jr.-2003 NFC Championship Game, Panthers vs. Eagles

Patriots cornerback Ty Law intercepted Peyton Manning three times to help lead his team to a 24-14 win over the Colts to send New England to their second Super Bowl in three years.

In the game following Law’s performance, Panthers rookie cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. picked off three passes in his game to his team to a win, a 14-3 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

39. Darren Sproles-2008 AFC Wild Card, Colts vs. Chargers

Normally used as a kick returner, Darren Sproles had to fill in at running back for the injured LaDainian Tomlinson in the Chargers’ Wild Card Game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Sproles rushed for 105 yards on 22 carries, to go along with five catches for 45 yards, four kickoff returns for 106 yards, and three punt returns for 72 yards, totaling 328 yards of total offense, the third most in playoff history.

Sproles scored two touchdowns including the game-winning 22-yard touchdown run in overtime to give the Chargers a 23-17 upset over the Colts.

Lawrence Mccutcheon scorched the Cardinals for 202 yards in the 1975 playoffs.

38. Lawrence McCutcheon-1975 NFC Divisional Playoff, Cardinals vs. Rams

Rams running back Lawrence McCutcheon became the first player to rush for over 200 yards in a playoff game as he ran for 202 yards on 37 carries in the Rams’ 35-23 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

37. Eric Moulds-1998 AFC Wild Card, Bills vs. Dolphins

Moulds set the playoff record for receiving yards as he gained 240 yards on nine catches in the Bills’ 24-17 defeat to the Miami Dolphins.

36. Richard Dent-1985 NFC Divisional Playoff, Giants vs. Bears

The ferocious Bears defense sacked Giants quarterback Phil Simms seven times, 3 ½ by defensive end Richard Dent in a 21-0 shutout of the New York Giants.

Dent was a major focal point in stopping Rams running back Eric Dickerson in the NFC Championship Game, and was named Super Bowl MVP in the Bears’ 46-10 demolition of the New England Patriots.

35. Danny White-1980 NFC Divisional Playoff, Cowboys vs. Falcons

Mimicking his predecessor Roger Staubach, quarterback Danny White led the Cowboys to a come-from-behind win.

White lead the Cowboys to 20 points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 14-point deficit and pull out a 30-27 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

White completed 25 of 40 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning pass, a 23-yarder to Drew Pearson with 47 seconds remaining.

34. Michael Irvin-1994 NFC Championship, Cowboys vs. 49ers

Irvin was able to get free from shutdown cornerback Deion Sanders to catch 12 passes for a NFC Championship Game record 192 yards and two touchdowns, but it was not enough as the Cowboys were unable to overcome a 21-0 deficit and the loss of Emmitt Smith as they fell to the San Francisco 49ers 38-28.

33. Freeman McNeil-1982 AFC Divisional Playoff, Jets vs. Bengals

McNeil gained 202 yards on just 21 carries, one of which went 20 yards for a touchdown. He also completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Gaffney as the Jets rolled to a 44-17 victory over defending AFC Champion Cincinnati.

32. Rickey Watters-1993 NFC Divisional Playoff, Giants vs. 49ers

49ers running back Rickey Watters set the playoff record for most touchdowns in a game as he scored five touchdowns, his longest scoring run only being six yards, in the 49ers’ easy 44-3 win over the New York Giants.

31.  Willie McGinest-2005 AFC Divisional Playoff, Jaguars vs. Patriots

Linebacker Willie McGinest was a one-man wrecking crew as he sacked Jaguars quarterback Bryon Leftwich 4 ½ times, a playoff record, in the Patriots’ 28-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

A.J. Duhe was a one-man wrecking crew as the Dolphins defeated the Jets in the 1982 AFC Championship Game.

30. A.J. Duhe-1982 AFC Championship Game, Jets vs. Dolphins

In the famous “Mud Bowl”, Dolphins linebacker A.J. Duhe intercepted Jets quarterback Richard Todd three times, returning one for a touchdown and another to set up the Miami’s other touchdown as the Dolphins shut out the New York Jets 14-0 to advance to Super Bowl XVII.

29. Larry Fitzgerald-2008 NFC Championship, Eagles vs. Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald was unstoppable throughout the Cardinals’ surprising run to Super Bowl XLIII, with perhaps his best performance coming in the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Fitzgerald caught three touchdown passes from quarterback Kurt Warner in the first half, then made three important catches on the Cardinals’ game-winning touchdown drive.

Fitzgerald finished the game with nine catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns in Arizona’s 32-25 win over the Eagles.

28.  Sterling Sharpe-1993 NFC Wild Card, Packers vs. Lions

Despite playing with a severe turf toe, Packers wide receiver Sterling Sharpe caught five passes for 101 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 40-yard touchdown pass from Brett Favre with 55 seconds left as the Packers knocked off the Detroit Lions 28-24.

Sharpe was so moved by the win he actually sat down and spoke with the media for the first time in several years.

27. Wilbert Montgomery-1980 NFC Championship Game, Cowboys vs. Eagles

Montgomery set the tone when he went untouched for a 42-yard touchdown run on the Eagles’ second offensive play from scrimmage.

Montgomery would finish the day with 194 yards on 26 carries and one touchdown as he lead the Eagles to a 20-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys and clinch the team’s first trip to the Super Bowl.

26. Steve Smith-2005 NFC Divisional Playoff, Panthers vs. Bears

Smith torched the vaunted Bears defense for 218 yards on 12 catches and caught two long touchdown passes, including a 58-yard touchdown catch 55 seconds into the game, as the Carolina Panthers defeated the Bears 29-21 to advance to the NFC Championship Game.

25. Thurman Thomas-1993 AFC Championship Game, Chiefs vs. Bills

Thurman Thomas put the Bills on his back and got them to their fourth straight Super Bowl as he carried the ball 33 times for 186 yards and scored three touchdowns in Buffalo’s 30-13 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bernie Kosar passed for 489 yards to lead the Browns to an overtime win over the Jets.

24. Bernie Kosar-1986 AFC Divisional Playoff, Jets vs. Browns

Kosar was able to bounce back from two fourth quarter interceptions to lead the Browns to 10 points in the final two minutes of regulation and then lead them to a game-winning field goal in the second overtime period as Cleveland defeated the New York Jets 23-20 in the second longest game in postseason history.

Kosar set records for passes completed, passes attempted, and passing yards as completed 33 of 64 passes for 489 yards.

23.  Kerry Collins-2000 NFC Championship Game, Vikings vs. Giants

Collins picked the right day to have the greatest game of his career, as Collins threw five touchdown passes, four of them in the first half, on 28 of 39 passes for 381 yards in the Giants’ 41-0 rout of the Minnesota Vikings for the team’s third trip to the Super Bowl.

22. John Riggins-1982 NFC Divisional Playoff, Vikings vs. Redskins

Before the playoffs began, running back John Riggins told Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs to “Give me the ball”.

Riggins got the ball 37 times for 185 yards and scored two touchdowns as the Redskins defeated the Minnesota Vikings 21-7.

When he was taken out of the game with over a minute to play, Riggins took his helmet off and took a bow to fans at RFK Stadium.

21. Roger Staubach-1972 NFC Divisional Playoff, Cowboys vs. 49ers

Staubach missed most of the 1972 regular season because of a separated shoulder and was not the starter in the Cowboys’ playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Trailing 28-13 late in the third quarter, Staubach entered the game, replacing starter Craig Morton.

Staubach led the Cowboys to 17 unanswered points, throwing two touchdown passes, including the game-winner, a 10-yard pass to Ron Sellers with 50 seconds remaining to give Dallas an miraculous 30-28 victory.

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